While most students and parents plan for children to head off to college immediately after high school, everyone knows that life has this nasty habit of getting in the way.
There are about a million reasons that you might have had to take a break from your formal education to clock in and pay your bills.
The good news is that no matter how long it’s been since you attended school, there are many easy ways that you can help get yourself back in gear.
Whether it’s been a year, ten years, or fifty years since you enrolled in college, there are several steps you can take to boost the odds right back in your favor.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to get yourself ready to go back to college after taking a few years to work.
Best Ways to Get Yourself Ready To Go Back To College After Taking a Few Years (Or Many) To Work
1) Network with Other Non-Traditional Students
One of the biggest complaints returning adult students share when they return to their formal educations is how overwhelming everything is.
Most people are more than willing to admit that they underestimated how hard it is.
Sadly, if you don’t prepare yourself for the obstacles and burdens of returning to school, discouragement can result in poor grades or even a resolution to quit and get back to work.
Don’t let the responsibilities and demands on your schedule catch you by surprise.
Take some time to network with other adult, non-traditional college students to find out what the biggest obstacles and challenges were and what they did to work around them.
The more information you have, the more realistic of a picture you’ll have painted as you head back to college.
2) Practice Telling People “No!”
Even if you do your homework and come to terms with the reality of going back to school, that doesn’t mean that other people will understand the demands placed on your time.
Distractions and delays will come from all sorts of unexpected places – spouses, children, friends, family members, co-workers, and more.
If you’re seriously considering heading back to college, it’s time to practice telling everyone “No!” now, while you can afford to get the hang of it.
Learn to set a schedule and stick to it.
If you plan to set aside 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. for studying, go ahead and “reserve” that period now, so people start familiarizing themselves with your new priorities.
Stick to your guns.
Don’t be afraid to turn people down, send calls to voice mail, or ignore emails until you have finished.
3) Take Placement Tests Early
If you know that you’ll be heading back to school soon, do yourself a favor and sign up to take your placement tests early.
If you haven’t attended class in ten years, your English or Math may be rustier than you dared imagine.
Since there’s no reason to set yourself up to fail, it just makes sense to schedule a simple test that will allow you to see how competent and confident you can be heading into your first classes.
It’s much better to do away with potential problems ahead of time when you have greater power to make changes and take action.
Don’t wait until the last minute and then freak out once classes begin.
Find a fast handle on where you sit with the various skills and classes you’ll be signing up for.
4) Sign Up for a Non-College Class
If you’re nervous about hitting the classroom again after all of these years, it may be wise to sign up for another course online or in your area first.
Doing so can get you back into the swing of attending school, doing “homework” and dealing with instructors.
Most local community or state colleges offer non-accredited classes on a host of exciting subjects and areas, many of which are highly relevant to today’s competitive workforce.
If you haven’t been in school for quite some time, this can help you work on gaining your confidence ahead of time, before anything can find its way onto your permanent record.
5) Understand Your Brain’s Potential
You might worry that you’re not as young as you used to be, and you might not be able to pick up new information as well as you once could.
Remove those worries from your mind altogether, because this is not true at all.
Your brain has the potential to keep learning and growing throughout your lifetime.
It’s fantastic adaptability to new learning and experiences is your brain’s neuroplasticity.
Learning new things improves the health and cognitive functioning of your brain.
Not only are you capable of learning as well as your younger classmates, but you are also improving your brain’s health and your chances of preventing degenerative neurological conditions in older age.
6) Use What You Learned at Work
One advantage you have going into college after working for a few or more years is that there are already some valuable skills you picked up that you can apply to learning.
Time management, problem-solving, critical thinking, juggling work, and home life are all things you picked up first-hand working.
These are invaluable skills to help make your college tenure smoother and more productive, so recognize and utilize your existing skillset!
Despite all these tips and tricks to help make for a smoother transition back into your formal education, two things are essential for success:
Desire and determination.
Before you head back to school, always make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Excess student loan money, while at times convenient, will not be enough to see you through the rough times.
Set your sights on the real prizes – greater education, improved career prospects, setting an example for your children – and you’ll stay motivated no matter what!
And there you have it – the best ways to get yourself ready to go back to college after taking a few years (or many) to work!
Did you find these tips helpful?
Did they boost your confidence in feeling prepared to go back to college after taking a few years to work?
Write in and let me know!
Katelyn Roberts writes for NetQin, a company dedicated to helping students stay focused and safe online.
[ Updated – October 8, 2020 ]